Tron wasn't exactly a success at the cinema when it came out in 1982, but it slowly became a cult classic - in a way it was ahead of its time, although focussed on arcade games I think it resonated more with people as gaming became more prolific. As its cult status grew, interest in making a sequel surfaced at Disney. But it took a long time to come to fruition with feelers put out to script writers in 2005, a teaser was shown to much surprise and even more applause in 2008 (cementing the fact that fans DID want to be taken back to the Grid) and we got Tron Legacy in December 2010.
Tron Evolution was released to coincide with Legacy's theatrical release, but it doesn't follow the plot of the film (there is one scene that appears as a flashback in the film which occurs in this game, which was a nice link between them). Evolution takes place between the two films, expanding on the ISOs plot introduced in Legacy.
You play as Anon, a security program designed by Kevin Flynn to act as a guard to a peace treaty that is about to be signed between ISOs (naturally evolved computer programs) and ordinary Programs. But a different problem presents itself, a cloaked program known as Abraxas releases a virus into the grid, opening up a larger conspiracy. The plot is pretty solid, and goes a good job of bridging Tron to Legacy, showing us some moments that were spoken about in the sequel film and doing them nicely.
The game is a third person action with freestyle running seen in a game like Prince of Persia. It also has a few RPG elements (although very simplistic) and a couple of racing sections. Combat is a pretty simple hack and slash system, using combinations of light and heavy attacks, which are different light disc - heavy, bomb, infection; all of which are upgradeable (this is the RPG element of the game) - with the light disc to derezz your enemies. There are energy strips conveniently placed for you to regain health or energy. These energy strips are located all over the levels, but some of them are a little harder to reach than others, but they do replenish after a while, so you can always run back to any energy strip that's easiest to reach. An interesting element to the game is that your character is the same for single player and multiplayer, so if you're finding a boss fight a bit tricky in the single player you can hop online and level up your character, and vice versa. The controls and camera can sometimes make the game tricky, leaping off walls when you don't want to or focussed on the wrong place or enemy. And the vehicle sections feel neglected, there's not enough of them and they handle very clunky. You can also use the Move controller on the Lightcycle sections which doesn't handle any better and feels like a waste of programming to include it in two short sections.
The visuals are the best part of this game. The Grid has been brought to like using the Unreal Engine, and although it may be years old, Unreal does not show its age here. All of the dark, and bright neon visual effects are incredible to look at. The reflections of the walls, and floors are very well done, and the neon of the characters is very detailed. The game looks and feels just like the Grid, and it was just what I wanted from a Tron game (short of being sucked into the Grid myself).
The sound is pretty good although there are only a couple of Daft Punk songs from the film, the instrumental is good mixed in with some techno pieces. The voice work is done very well with some mimic voice acting but Olivia Wilde and Bruce Boxleitner voice their respective characters from Tron Legacy.
For me, this is just what I wanted from a Tron game, and it is better for the fact that it doesn't follow the plot of the films; the bridging plot works very well, giving a greater insight into the Grid.
Tron: Legacy was one of the big surprises at the box office in 2010. A sequel to the classic Disney film that has not aged as well as it could have, Tron: Legacy was exciting both visually and dramatically as well as anchoring the action with some light exploration of philosophy and ethics. Oh, and it had one of the finest soundtracks for years. Unsurprisingly, a video game tie-in release was part of Tron: Legacy's marketing monolith, but did not hit my shopping trolley until recently. Generally I avoid tie-in games. They aren't all bad, but the vast majority of games based on films are poor and derivative, serving little purpose other than to reinforce a franchise's recognition and push up ticket sales while making a quick bit of cash on the side. Still, I'd heard good things about Tron: Evolution and so the game finally one me over at a very fair £8.
Tron: Evolution is a third person platformer in the style of the Prince of Persia series. For those unfamiliar with Tron or its sequel, the setting is "The Grid." This is essentially a world inside a supercomputer, structured like a futuristic city. The Grid is populated by anthropomorphic computer programmes who live and work in the city, performing all the functions of the computer for the user. You control Anon, a piece of monitoring software developed to keep a check on all the system's functions. Anon has been introduced into the system because Tron protagonist, Kevin Flynn, believes that something suspicious is going on in the computer without his knowledge. Anon must travel through different areas of The Grid, trying to investigate a murder while revolution erupts. Meanwhile, the system is being attacked by viruses. The plot ties in very heavily to Tron: Legacy, but still stands on its own as a very well developed prequel. However, while the film works perfectly on its own, I couldn't shake the feeling that the game would lose me completely if I hadn't experienced both. Still, the upside to this is that if you are a fan of the film, the game really feels like a sincere and significant piece of back story. It's set entirely in the grid, which does mean the human element of the films is a little lost, but once you get a feel for how everything works then the story becomes quite absorbing.
Gameplay is quite well structured, it reminds me a lot of the recent Spider-man: Edge of Time, but is significantly better balanced. You move between sections of locked down rooms where you are required to fight your way to freedom, and tricky free-running sections across ledges and "rooftops." It's very well designed, though I found the difficulty to be quite challenging from very early on. The only downside is that it does get a little repetitive as you progress, with the only real variation being in the tougher enemies you encounter. Combat is fun and is based around combining a throwing disc and using your fists. It has a nice bouncy feel, but ultimately you'll have to get used to some slightly more complicated power attacks and combos to move on. You can't just hammer buttons to move on and it never feels easy, but it's usually fair and balanced. Extra to the story mode, you can also visit the game grid and participate in one of the series' iconic light cycle races or duke it out in a disk fight. This nicely captured the film's tournament scenes but really wasn't my kind of thing.
Tron: Evolution also comes with some nice visuals. The films are known for a very defined visual style, utilising groundbreaking computer graphics so it's nice to see that this game captures the look of Tron: Legacy perfectly. The glowing outlines combined with dark shadows really comes off well here. The only let down was the lack of anti-aliasing. AA removes jagged edges by filling in the jags with intermediate shades, when you're dealing with a game so full of high-contrast edges and fine details, even a basic anti-aliasing solution can really clean up the image. However, this is not uncommon for PS3 games due to hardware limitations so I suppose I can't really complain.
The sound design was clear and effective, but I was a little disappointed that the film's excellent soundtrack by Daft Punk had been mostly scrapped from gameplay. The two major tracks "The Grid" and "Derezzed" feature briefly, but most of the gameplay features original music that just isn't as good. The game's new tunes sort of fit in with the electronic music vibe but without an ounce of the originality. It's certainly par for the course in a game of this budget, but the film had a lot to offer in this department and I don't know why the game hasn't drawn upon that.
Overall, Tron: Evolution is a tricky one. I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure who I'd recommend it to. Certainly, anyone who enjoyed Tron: Legacy will probably get some fun out of this, especially if their fans of Prince of Persia. For others, I think the complex world is a bit too much to get used to without more of an introduction than this game provides. It's a lot of fun but you get the most out of with when you treat it as a companion to the films. Which, I suppose, is what a tie-in game should be.